A Pasco Fire Department investigation revealed electricity in an apartment building that caught fire on two separate occasions Monday morning was not shut off properly before the second blaze ignited.
While Battalion Chief Dave Hare said the origin of the second fire could not officially be determined, he told the Herald that Franklin PUD only shut off electricity to the two bottom units in the four-plex building.
"Normally you go in and get electricity cut off," Hare said. "It wasn't cut off properly."
Hare could not say if the second fire was caused by the electricity not being cut off. He said it is common for all electricity to be cut off during structure fires.
Hare laid out a timeline of his department's response to the two fires, which left five families homeless.
Crews responded to the first fire at 2210 Henry Place just before 1 a.m., had it contained within an hour and left the scene at 3:20 a.m., Hare said. Firefighters then checked on the fire around 4:30 a.m., before being called back when the second fire ignited at 5:45 a.m.
Hare said there is no way to know how long the second fire was burning before crews were called out. Firefighters put out the second fire at 6:42 a.m. and stayed on scene to investigate until 4:30 p.m.
The nineteen residents of the building lost virtually everything, the American Red Cross said in a release. A firefighter sustained a minor injury, but no one was seriously hurt.
Hare said the second fire started in the attic and then spread into the living areas. The two bottom units suffered water damage.
Erica Flores, who was in the apartment where the first fire originated, said Monday that the second fire completely destroyed her mother Maribel Castellanos' home.
"The second fire was really horrible," she told the Herald. "That was the worst fire. Really horrible. Everything was gone. We don't have nothing at all."
Hare said it is common practice to go back and check on fires once they are put out to make sure they don't reignite.
The Red Cross has rallied to support the displaced families and already has committed almost $6,000 to assist them, said Jeanne Jelke, executive director of the Red Cross in the Tri-Cities.
The Red Cross also has put the families up in a hotel for three nights and is lining up emergency housing.
Contributions to the Red Cross disaster relief fund can be delivered or mailed to 7202 W. Deschutes Ave., Kennewick 99336. Donors can also call 509-783-6195 or go to www.redcross.org.